Rarely, if ever, will you find me talking about religion or politics on this blog. But every once in a while it’s fun to shake things up a bit. Look I get it. This nation was partly founded on a person’s right to religious freedom and ability to worship (or not worship for that matter) as they please without persecution. Freedom is what makes America great. Sure, sometimes the concept of freedom is lost on some, but still, we all have freedoms that allow us to believe what we believe and live accordingly.
The problem I’m having with all of these proposed laws pertaining to a person’s right to have their religious beliefs protected is the ambiguity that seems to come with them. By that I simply mean at what point does a person’s statement “it’s against my religious beliefs” have to be backed up? And is the person making that statement, sure that the religion they follow would back up what they’re saying? Basically are they accurate in their knowledge of their religion or are their “personal beliefs” influencing their “religious beliefs.”
I myself was raised Catholic. Much of what I understood about our religion I had learned from my parents. And they in turn had inherited that knowledge from their parents. What I learned later in life, was that a good portion of what they had taught me was actually inaccurate and more in line with what our ancestors “personally” believed rather than what the Catholic church actually taught. There were choices about our lives that pertained to meals, holidays, and interactions with others that were based primarily on what my parents considered to be the teachings of the Catholic church. These choices were, as far as they were concerned, based on their religious beliefs. However, the reality was that because their understanding of the Catholic faith was somewhat inaccurate, these choices were actually based more on personal beliefs. How awkward it would have been to have made the statement, “we don’t do that because it’s against our religious beliefs” only to have the church say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
I’m fairly confident that the majority of Americans would be surprised to learn what their own church truly believes and how many times they’ve made choices that they thought were being made based on religious
beliefs, but were rather misunderstandings or misinterpretations of their own religion. So the question is, at
what point would a person have to back up a statement like, “I’m not going to provide you with that service because it’s against my religious beliefs?” Could they just say it and walk away or would they be obligated to prove it by providing documentation that verifies that those are in fact the beliefs of the religion they follow?
Religion in and of itself is such a private, personal matter and often interpreted differently by different people based on their own personal beliefs or how they were raised. It seems remarkably difficult to me to create a law which is very black and white in nature based on a religious belief which inherently has a lot of gray area. Even the bible itself is interpreted differently from faith to faith, congregation to congregation, individual to individual. So it seems impossible to me for someone to make the statement, “it’s against my religious beliefs,” without there being even a small percentage of personal biases interlaced within that statement.
Both my ex and I try to teach our children to learn about each other’s faiths and cultures to better understand the people around them and to recognize that we all think differently. I personally believe that the more you open yourself to understanding others, the more you recognize that despite our differences we’re very much the same. That is scary for some as it forces people to question what they’ve known as truth their entire life. And so they turn a blind eye to protect their own beliefs. But in doing so they very well may be living their life based on misinformation and making costly judgment errors.
Opening yourself up to understanding takes a certain amount of courage and, yes, faith. It doesn’t mean giving up your own beliefs, it simply means understanding the perspective of those we live with day to day. And why can’t we believe different things but still help each other. Sure it’s easier and may feel somewhat safer to live in a world of ignorant bliss. But to quote the Doobie Brothers, “What a fool believes … he sees.” And if all he sees is what he believes, then he’s actually quite blind.